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silent soundwalk:

silent soundwalk


name: silent soundwalk
start project: 2011-06-17
end project: 2011-06-17


A soundwalk in Thurn & Taxis + workshop: create your own OpenGreen and connect to the database.

In the morning Jonathan Prior guides us through the sounds of the city during a silent soundwalk on the wasteland of Thurn & Taxis. How does Brussels sound? Can sound create a space? These questions are asked and explained, while we listen to the ecological aspects of public spaces. During this guided tour Jonathan Prior lets us experience the public space in another way.
In the afternoon Danielle Roberts and Annemie Maes introduce you to the OpenGreens database. With the image material of the silent soundwalk we ‘recreate’ the wasteland of Thurn & Taxis in the OpenGreens database in a collective way.

A silent soundwalk was taken by 8 participants starting from the front door of OKNO, and concluding at the most northern section of the thurn & taxis 'wasteland'. Such a soundwalk involves all the participants walking without talking and eliminating any other distractions (mobile phones, cameras etc). Each participant walks behind one another at a distance so as to avoid listening to each others footsteps. The soundwalk was 45 minutes in duration, passing along busy city streets, the canal, through the Entrepôt Royal building, and
across the open thurn & taxis abandoned train line, which is now a thriving grassland ecosystem.


The goal of the silent soundwalk was to get participants to think about the sonic properties of moving through marginal land, and about the difference between passive hearing and active listening. A series of questions were posed before the walk to get people thinking and to stimulate post-walk discussions. For example: are sounds encountered incidental to other phenomena, or are they designed to be heard? How do spatial properties of an environment effect the ways in which sounds are heard? Or, inversely, how do sounds effect spatiality? How do sounds interact with our other sense perceptions?


the power of noise
date: 2011-06-17
We started our walk from OKNO. The noise from the busy street was very loud and oppressive. As soon as we went near the water, into space, it became less oppressive even though the sound level stayed more or less the same.
Apart from the rustle of the tree leaves there were hardly any natural sounds. Luckily this changed as we went into the Thurn & taxis site. Once the noise dropped it became clear to me how big the influence of sound is on you state of mind. I’m constantly (subconsciously) trying to keep out the noise. This means you can’t open up and relax. Entering the wasteland this changed and I could feel myself again. Hearing the rustle of plants and the sounds made by the surface I walked on it felt like coming home. An intimacy returned, I could reconnect with the environment.

green versus grey
date: 2011-06-17
What stroke me was that while we were walking in the urban area the noises were mainly generated as by-products from activities. The noise of cars, drilling, constructing things... The noises generated to communicate, like talking, music, the beeping sound of a truck driving backwards or a sirene were minimal.
From the moment we entered the grassy zone in Thurn&Taxis it all got reversed.
The communicating birds took over. We could still sometimes hear airplanes or trains, but mainly the sound were generated by natural elements. The by-products, eg. the sound of the wind through the grasses was quieter than sounds produced to communicate.
It was also interesting to realize that when we were standing a bit lower, next to the canal, the sound of the cars was less overwhelming, and we started to hear sounds generated by the water of the canal.
When walking under tunnels, the sounds also changed, we could hear the height of it.
In the urban landscape entering a building worked as a shield for the ever present traffic noises, and when we entered the grassy area the sounds generated by building stages for an upcoming festival immediately dissapeared, as if absorbed by the grass/earth. Thinking about this i realize that when we were walking close to a wall in the city the sounds were really oppressing, but when we crossed that same street and started to walk next to the canal, they were less annoying. As if the openness of the field would flatten the sound. Maybe it`s also that stone walls reverberate the sound, whereas grass, earth just absorbs it...

experience - silent soundwalk
date: 2011-06-17
during the first part, the traffic sound was very disturbing, so i couldn't pay attention and keep the focus on the environmental sounds. while changing from the streets to the canal side occurred a sensibility shift too, meaning that the cars sounds lost power and the nature could "speak" louder. the same happened during the last part of the walk when we first step the grass part of the wasteland. all the urban feeling disappeared and the body was allowed to be immersed in natural sounds.

sounds of silence
date: 2011-06-17
my first impression was the difficulty to filter the different kinds of sounds and be capable to listen to human and nature sounds between the busy traffic. the visual stimulus and the necessity to be concentrate on the path made the focus on the environment sounds more difficult. in the fields, where the cars couldn't be heard anymore, i realized how much the psychological aspects can influence the way the space is captured.

a Brussels outsider
date: 2011-06-17
Having only spent two days in Brussels, I was interested in the sonic properties along the silent soundwalk as an outsider. I kept relating the sound environment encountered to soundscapes that I usually encounter where I live (Edinburgh, Scotland). For example, along from the canal the sound of car tires on cobblestones is a sound that represents much of my sonic experience of Edinburgh. Also, I paid more attention to the human voice than I normally do during such an activity, as not understanding the languages spoken meant that I could listen to the voice as sound, rather than as communication.
Of course the transition from the city streets to the grassland ecosystem was sonically stark, but what interested me was the ability to act as a composer of the soundscape, as I was in control of regulating the direction and pace of walking. Every time I undertake a silent soundwalk I feel that I understand better how I relate to the sound world, and how I am an active participant in the making of that world. (Jonathan Prior)